UIC TiL: Marisol Garrida

Our first UIC Talk in Linguistics is coming up Friday September 18th!  Our first speaker will be Marisol Garrida from Western Illinois University.  Her talk is entitled “Diphthongization of Non-High Vowel Squences in Latin American Spanish”.  The talk will take place in 1750 of University Hall (601 South Morgan Street) from 3pm to 5pm.


Adjacent vowels in Spanish may be syllabified either as heterosyllabic
(V.V) or tautosyllabic (VV) sequences, depending on the vowel quality
and/or the position of the stress. As a general rule, sequences of
non-high vowels, or a stressed high vowel in contact with a non-high vowel
are to be articulated as two separate syllables (hiatus); the remaining
sequence combinations are to be parsed as tautosyllabic or diphthong

Despite the established syllabification rules, previous studies on Spanish
phonology report on different variation phenomena. The resulting forms of
output include cases as contrastive as the articulation of ‘exceptional
hiatuses’ in Peninsular Spanish (e.g. [kli.én.te] for [kljen.te]
‘customer’) and the tendency to diphthongize hiatus sequences in Latin
American Spanish (e.g. [tja.tro] for [te.á.tro] ‘theater’).

Given the reported variation, this research focuses on the tendency to
diphthongization of canonical hiatus sequences (e.g. /ea/> /ja/ as desear
[de.se.ár]>[de.sjár] ‘to want’) observed in two different varieties of
Latin American Spanish (Mexican and Colombian).

Data collected from 39 college students from Bogota and Mexico City were
analyzed with the aim of establishing the different factors constraining
this sound change. Results presented in this talk compare the
pronunciation of the sequences /ea/ and /ia/ in two grammatical categories
(nouns and verbs) and three different stress contexts (pretonic, tonic and
posttonic). The data analyzed come from recorded speech samples (a total
of 2720 tokens) and the participants’ syllabification intuitions.
The overall results confirm that the tendency to diphthongize hiatus
sequences is highly spread in some Latin American varieties (data for the
oral syllabification task from Bogota showed that 52.2% of the words
containing the expected hiatus sequence ‘e.a’ were syllabified as
diphthongs, for Mexico City, 54.6% of the sequences were syllabified as
diphthongs).Additionally results from the acoustic analysis showed that
the articulation of a VV sequence varies from one stress context to
another. The tendency to reduce the hiatus sequence /ea/ to a
tautosyllabic articulation [ja] is more likely to occur in a stress
context other than tonic/initial, with posttonic position being the most
favorable for diphthongization to occur.

Results from this study contribute to the field of Spanish phonology in
three main aspects: they report on dialectal differences and similarities
from two different varieties, they confirm the relevance of proximity to
stress and relative position of the sequence in the word as a constraining
factor in the articulation of adjacent vowels, and they add to
methodological approaches by comparing results from two different
syllabification tasks, and showing that task choice plays an important
role when testing intuitive judgments.

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